A Crazy King's Royal Nightmare
By Belinda Elliott
It was one of those lessons that hit me hard. Who knew an Old Testament Bible story could pack such a punch!
With a ladies’ small group at my church, I am currently working through Beth Moore’s latest Bible study, which is about the book of Daniel. In recent weeks we’ve been studying about the rise and fall of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon.
The Bible tells us that pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). Few stories demonstrate this truth as clearly as the story of Nebuchadnezzar.
The king had built a large and successful kingdom in Babylon and was quite proud of his accomplishments. He didn’t realize that the wealth he enjoyed was from God. Instead, he proudly paraded around the kingdom with the confidence of a mighty ruler.
I can almost hear him as he gazed out at the beauty that surrounded his luxurious palace. Looking down from his rooftop, he probably took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the fresh air and smelling the fragrance of the flowers below. “Check this out. This place is fantastic! And it’s all because of me!”
Actually Daniel 4 records his words like this: "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?"
But while King Neb was patting himself on the back, God was growing tired of his super-sized ego.
A year earlier, the Lord had warned him through a startling dream that his puffed-up pride would cost him if he didn’t change his ways. This last proud declaration from Babylon’s ruler stirred God to action.
“The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, ‘This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle.’” (Daniel 4:31-32)
Immediately the mighty king became like a wild animal with even his hair growing like feathers and his nails like the claws of a bird. The Bible implies that he also lost the human ability to think rationally.
This lasted for seven years. After that, God restored his mind. Once his sanity was restored, the king was willing to admit that his regal motives up to that point had been royally misplaced.
Reading this story really shook me. When I think about the book of Daniel I remember the fiery furnace and the lions’ den, but in past readings I somehow missed King Nebuchadnezzar’s journey to the wild side.
What great lengths God went to in order to show Babylon’s ruler that his life was not all about him! I felt in my spirit that God wanted to remind me of the same thing.
As God often has a way of doing, He brought this lesson from Daniel to my mind again a few days later. During his sermon this week, my pastor made a statement that stuck in my mind. Summarizing a verse in Colossians he said, “We are dead people.”
My first instinct was to laugh because I immediately thought of the movie The Sixth Sense. I envisioned Haley Joel Osment whispering his famous line, I see dead people, from behind the pulpit. As I chuckled to myself, I recorded the statement on my bulletin to share the inside joke with my husband once the service was over.
Then came that still, small voice.
We really are dead people, or at least we should be. As Christians our lives are not our own. Colossians 3:3 tells us, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” This same portion of Scripture instructs us to set our hearts and minds on things above rather than on earthly things.
"What's that, Lord? You mean my life really isn’t all about me?"
Of course I already knew that. As a Christian I have always desired that everything I do bring glory to God. But what I sensed God asking me was whether or not my day-to-day actions agreed with what I claimed my life to be about.
Have you truly been doing everything for My glory, or have you allowed your own selfish ambitions to creep in?
Have you been more concerned with trying to make a name for yourself than you have been with bringing glory to My name?
Have you been approaching your work more in the spirit of competition than in the spirit of ministry?
Ouch! God’s line of questioning hurt. At first I became a little defensive.
“But, Lord, isn’t that why I’m here? Isn’t that why I spent years in a classroom writing papers and earning degrees? Shouldn’t I want to be good at what I do? Is it wrong to want to be successful?”
Then God reminded me that His idea of success differs greatly from the one that is promoted in our culture. Yes, God has blessed each of us with numerous gifts and abilities; but they are for His glory, not our own.
A truly successful life in God’s eyes is one fully devoted and obedient to Him. He calls us to die to “self” and to the selfish ambitions that we would rather cater too. His request is that we lay down our lives and give Him full control. Anytime we do otherwise, and seek to fulfill our own agendas, we are exhibiting pride.
Dying to self is not an easy task. I rather enjoy being in control of my life (or at least thinking that I’m in control). Stepping down from our thrones and relinquishing control is difficult at times.
Although, perhaps it is not as difficult for us as it was for King Nebuchadnezzar. What a nightmare to live through! I’m glad God doesn’t resort to turning us all into wild animals when we fail to heed His warnings.
The beautiful part of King Nebuchadnezzar’s story, Beth Moore points out, is that God never intended to destroy the king completely. He only intended to destroy his pride. Yes, turning someone into a wild beast may seem like an extreme punishment to us, but God does whatever is necessary to refine our character. After he sifts the undesirable things from our lives, He lovingly restores us. His chastisement is for our own good and meant to produce spiritual growth.
Babylon’s king learned this lesson well. He emerged from the experience with a powerful testimony that he shared with the people in Babylon and the surrounding nations.
“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.” (Daniel 4:37)
Are we willing to give up control of our lives willingly, or will we wait for God to tear the reins from our hands?
I don’t know about you, but I've decided to hand them over voluntarily.
Want to learn more about Beth Moore’s Bible study? Check out Daniel: Lives of Integrity, Words of Prophecy (LifeWay, 2006)
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